PFIZER BREAKS 1ST ADS FOR VIAGRA AS RIVALS MULL OWN CAMPAIGNS: HIGHLY TOUTED RX DRUG SLATED FOR $35 MIL PUSH

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Despite phenomenal media attention for its prescription anti-impotence pill Viagra, Pfizer has kicked off its first advertising, an estimated $35 million direct-to-consumer campaign focused on aging baby boomers.

The print ad features a fiftysomething couple-photo-graphed in muted earth tones-doing a dip as they dance next to the blue, diamond-shape pill. The campaign from Cline, Davis & Mann, New York, carries the tagline "Let the dance begin."

The spread, followed by a page listing contraindications, broke last week in newsweeklies. In some, another advertorial-like page elsewhere in the issue, labeled "advertisement," was a discussion of erectile dysfunction.

TV is planned for August.

SPOTLIGHT IS A PROBLEM

David Brinkley, director and team leader of sexual health at Pfizer, said the unprecedented attention the product has received is more of a problem than a help.

"On the surface, it seems like good news. But actually [it] makes our job more difficult," he said. "The joke-a-day monologues on TV run the risk of trivializing erectile dysfunction and having a reverse effect of not bringing people out of the closet for the condition. If you rely on the media to deliver your message, it's not going to be the one you want."

Focus groups found that "people want a positive message, they don't want to be reminded of their dysfunction and already know how devastated they are by it," Mr. Brinkley said.

The incidence of erectile dysfunction is about 5% at age 40 but increases to 15% to 25% for men 65-plus, and also affects diabetics.

People in focus groups responded to the "connectedness" the drug helped them feel with their partners, said Mr. Brinkley, and dancing was selected to portray that.

SIMILAR TO KMART'S IMAGERY

Prior to this campaign from Pfizer, similar imagery was used by Kmart Corp.'s pharmacy in June ads for Viagra appearing in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Although Viagra is the first pill to treat erectile dysfunction, Pharmacia & Upjohn and Vivus are mulling new campaigns for their Caverject and Muse brands, respectively. Hoffman/Lewis, San Francisco, handles Muse's DTC ads; and Caverject's DTC agency is Draft Worldwide, Chicago.

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